Toronto remembers Karaffa as dedicated

TORONTO — Family, friends, former students and colleagues gathered together in the library of the J. T. Karaffa Elementary School Tuesday to say goodbye to the school’s namesake — Joseph Karaffa.

Karaffa, who died March 13 at the age of 94, was a life long resident of the Gem City and a dedicated educator, administrator and school board member of the Toronto City Schools.

Superintendent Maureen Taggart said she was honored to have known Karaffa as the superintendent when she was a student and then later as board member and mentor when she started her education career.

“I patterned my career after him,” she said. “He came up through the ranks.”

Karaffa was a member of the 1942 graduating class of Toronto High School. He went on study education at Ohio State University, Franciscan University and the University of Pittsburgh.

After completing his education, Karaffa returned to his hometown where he happily spent his entire educational career.

Karaffa’s first teaching job was at Lincoln Elementary in 1952. He went on to be named the principal of Central School in 1961, the principal of Lincoln Elementary in 1962, and the principal of S.C. Dennis Junior High in 1965.

In 1976, Karaffa was the first Toronto City Schools graduate to be named superintendent of the district.

“He was always so proud to be from Toronto,” Taggart said.

In 1980, Karaffa successfully lead a campaign to have a new middle school built in the city. After his retirement from the office of superintendent, the district voted to name the school after him –the J.T. Karaffa Middle School. The school is now the J.T. Karaffa Elementary school.

“His crowning achievement was getting the school built,” Taggart said.

After retirement, the city voted to have Karaffa return to serve the district as a school board member.

During all this time, Taggart said the most important thing to Karaffa always remained the students.

“He always had the needs of the students first and foremost in his mind,” she said. “He cared for each and every student.”

Taggart said that when Karaffa’s family reached out to the district about having the funeral luncheon at the school, they were honored to help.

“They asked to have his funeral luncheon here at his building,” she said. “There was no way we were going to say ‘no.'”

In addition to his years as an educator, Karaffa was a World War II veteran, where he served as a medic in the 407th Medical Detachment of the 102nd Infantry. His family said that Karaffa sent Christmas cards to current service members every year.

Those wishing to honor Karaffa can send contributions to the Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa Award in Excellence in Education, c/o the Toronto High School Alumni Association, P.O. Box 273.

The fund was created in 1997 to honor the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary and honors a teacher or administrator annually for their work in the district.